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24th Annual Bertram Morris Colloquium

The Ethics and Politics of Consumerism

March 13-18, 2000


Each year the CU-Boulder Philosophy Department hosts a colloquium in honor of Bertram Morris (1908-1981), a former professor in our department who is remembered for his commitment to both the philosophical and practical aspects of pressing social issues.

The topic of this spring's Morris Colloquium is The Ethics and Politics of Consumerism. It will be held during the week of March 13-18, 2000, and consist of video presentations, colloquium papers, and panel debates and discussions.

Our aim is to begin a well-informed dialogue about the effects of consumerism on the environment, the character of our communities, our individual well-being, and people in the developing world.

The following topics and questions will be addressed during the week:

  • Consumption, resources, and the environment. North American consumption is out of proportion to our share of the world's population and is arguably fueling a global environmental crisis. What can we do to reduce the "ecological footprint" of our way of life?
  • Cultural conflicts. How is the globalization of the consumer economy affecting quality of life and cultural identity in the developing world? What, if anything, can (or should) be done to manage or mitigate these influences?
  • Globalization, labor, and consumer choice. Is it ethical for multinational corporations to employ workers overseas in conditions regarded as intolerable in the U.S.? How should American consumers respond to the charge that certain goods have been produced in exploitative labor conditions in the developing world?
  • Community vitality. The commercial sector in the U.S. is becoming increasingly consolidated and homogenized. Should municipalities like Boulder enact ordinances to keep large national chains from overrunning locally-owned, independent businesses? Are there other ways to preserve the distinctive character of smaller communities?
  • Simple living. Is the simple life a more appealing vision of the good than the consumer lifestyle? What are some realistic strategies for lifestyle "downshifting" -- i.e., for cutting back on consumer goods, work, stress and debt? Does the simplicity movement pose a viable challenge to consumerism?
Because this topic has significant popular appeal as well as academic interest, this year the philosophical presentations will be supplemented with a video series at the beginning of the week and a community forum on Saturday, both of which are being co-organized by the Philosophy Department and the CU Environmental Center. The United Government of Graduate Students has generously agreed to help finance the event.

All events are free and open to the public.


Morris Colloquium 2000 is co-sponsored by:

the Morris Fund, the Department of Philosophy, 
the Center for Values and Social Policy, the CU Environmental Center,
and the United Government of Graduate Students.


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